No. 215 UCDA P4/414

Handwritten letter from Hugh Kennedy to William T. Cosgrave (Dublin)

Dublin, 9 May 1924


The Boundary

  1. 1. I have read the enclosed minute from the Minister of Home Affairs1 which I return herewith.
  2. 2. Hitherto it has been accepted both by the British Government and by ourselves (by us perhaps tacitly) (a) that the terms of reference of the Boundary Commission were set out in the Treaty in specific form; (b) that they do not call for, and are not to receive, any interpretation from either Government before the Commission is constituted; and (c) that it will be for the Commission to interpret its terms of reference when it proceeds to business. I think the position at least amounted to this that no question could properly arise until the Commission entered upon its work and moreover we on our part do not admit that any ambiguity exists or that any question of interpretation can arise. The British Government has not so far suggested that any ambiguity exists or that it favours an interpretation different from ours. The Northern Eastern people have raised the question but they refuse to take part in the Commission.
  3. 3. In these circumstances I doubt the wisdom of the proposal in the enclosed minute. In the first place, it is based on the assumption that there is some ambiguity which we have always denied and cannot now admit. In the second place, it proposes to arbitrate on the true interpretation of the terms of reference. Who are to be the parties to the arbitration? Three Governments or two Governments? But the British have not yet expressed any view. Who would choose the Arbitrator or Arbitrators? If the same parties as are to nominate the Boundary Commission, how are we any better off than we would be before the Commission?, while we would be worse off by having admitted ambiguity requiring determination. Lastly we would go into the Boundary Commission tied up by whatever construction the Arbitrator would have put upon the terms of reference.
  4. 4. If any question of interpretation arises at all, it will arise at the early stage of the proceedings of the Boundary Commission. If disagreement as to the meaning of the Terms of Reference should then appear, the question will be how that disagreement is to be solved. It would be open for the Commission in my opinion to refer back the Terms of Reference to the Governments concerned for further instructions on the matter in dispute. On the other hand, the British are committed to the line of allowing the Commission to determine such dispute themselves, while I rather think we are to some extent, I am not sure how far, committed to the same course.
  5. 5. It seems to me that there has been a settled policy of making us appear as having simply a clearcut demand for the Counties of Tyrone and Fermanagh. I feel that we should not allow ourselves to be pinned to this position. The area we claim cannot be so defined - hence the necessity for the Boundary Commission. We claim an area yet to be ascertained but to be determined by the wishes of the inhabitants subject to correction by economic and geographical considerations. I think we should never commit ourselves to any forecast as to what area the Commission will fix as transferable to us upon these considerations - the more open we keep it, the greater margin we have to work upon.
  6. 6. May I urge that Kevin O'Shiel be lent for the Boundary work as soon as possible.
  7. H.K.

    1No. 214 above.

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